Tulum is not as expansive as Chichen Itza, but it’s very unique. For one thing, it’s built by the ocean…for another, there are iguanas everywhere. Again, we are unlucky with the weather so it was scalding at Tulum then when we got to Xel Ha to swim…it was cold.
Chichen Itza is mostly interesting for the scale and astrological significance. The history we learned at Tulum was more quirky and it helped that our guide had laminated pictures to show us.
There is a theory that the people at Tulum were not just Mayans but perhaps Mongols who had come over. There was evidence that they had the “mongol mark” which is a spot on the lower back that disappears around puberty. The architecture is more eastern in design and there is some evidence of fish bones perhaps being used for acupuncture. The Mayans would put jade stones in their teeth and sharpen them as well as mold the heads of their children because the ideal form to them was that of a jaguar.
Lizards are cool… but I overheard another guide saying that they were responsible for a lot of the destruction of the ruins ):
I wanted to swim but it was pretty crowded (high tide didn’t help!) and we still had a van ride to Xel Ha. Yes, the water really is that shade of blue.
I wish I had done Tulum and Xel Ha separately because I felt rushed at both. There’s a lot to do at Xel Ha, especially if you want to sign up for any of the extra activities like snuba and sea trek. In my preparation I found some people saying that Xel Ha was ‘too touristy’ like ‘the disneyland of Mexico’ and I am here to say that’s elitist BS. You want to go sleep out in the jungle and get dysentery, fine but don’t knock the half-way stuff.
Xel Ha is a natural water park. It is not remotely like disneyland except that it might be packed in summers. It is left mostly natural. The highlight of the park is a slow-flowing river that you tube/snorkle down. First you go beneath the mangroves then finally out into a lake where there are big rocks to snorkle around. Lots of fish by the docks too.
We really didn’t do much besides the river ): We watched the dolphins play a bit. There are caves and cenotes to explore. I wish I’d tried the rope crossings. I did go across the floating bridge and around it were some pretty big fish. My dad was afraid to snorkle around there…once they get that size he said the line between predator and prey isn’t clear enough!
There are lizards here too. This is the greeter!